Greenwashing is also known as whitewashing with a green brush. No matter how the definition is tweaked, it all points to the same central theme: it's a widely used practice of making false or deceptive environmental claims to make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is.
Although the scope of this article addresses this deceptive marketing practice with respect to green carpet cleaning products, greenwashing is not limited to just cleaning products.
For instance, the food industry is plagued with the same type of deceptive marketing techniques. With food it's the "all natural" or "fat free" food. The food might be natural with respect to some ingredients but what the manufacturer doesn't tell you in prominent print is the high sugar or salt content or preservatives that can be more harmful than the benefits the "natural" ingredients provide. With food products the deception is not the environmental impact but the nutritional impact.
Many companies use greenwashing to save money. How often do companies want us to go "paperless" and download their information from a website all in the name of using less paper (to be environmentally friendly). They promote the perception of eco-friendly by going paperless. The reality is, their customers have to print out what the companies used to send them via the postal service. The company saves postage and printing costs but in all the greenwash, the consumer pays for the printing and paper.
I was recently in a local supermarket. As I went through the "health and beauty aids" aisle, I noticed a hair product manufacturer was promoting a "dedicated to recycling" display. At first blush, the display gave me the impression this manufacturer is concerned with the impact their products have on the environment. Further investigation revealed the manufacturer's concern for the environment and user safety was about as deep as the display's packaging. Seems the only difference between this product line and its competition is the eco-friendly marketing.
The examples go on and on. The product marketing appears environmentally conscience but go past the label and what do you find? Majority of cases, the environmental friendliness and user safety stops at the packaging.
Until we have labeling we can confidently trust, the best action we can take to protect ourselves is to read and understand carpet cleaning product labels.
Rather than looking for label words like "green" or other marketing keywords, check the ingredients.
Current laws do not require cleaning product formulators to list all the ingredients of their so called green carpet cleaning products. If you find ingredients like Dipropylene Glocol Monomethyl Ether, Ethylene Glycol Butyl Ether, Glycol Monomethyl Ether. nonylphenol ethoxylates, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), 2 butoxyethanol and other difficult to pronounce ingredients find another cleaning product.
A great help in the fight against greenwashing is to look for green carpet cleaning products that are certified green by one or more independent third party certifying organizations such as Green Seal, EcoLogo or The Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI).
To be certified by these independent organizations, a manufacturer must disclose all ingredients along with all toxicity data to an unbiased laboratory for testing. Part of the purpose of these certifying organizations is to give the consumer more confidence when making a purchasing decision.
Unfortunately, the job of choosing safe, eco-friendly green carpet cleaning products is ultimately placed on the consumer. The best line of defense is buyer beware. To make the purchase decision easier, do your homework and scrutinize product ingredients. Start by choosing green carpet cleaning products that are certified by independent third party organizations.
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